Lions notes: Goff eager to return, will know more by week's end
Allen Park — After missing last Sunday's game with knee injury, Jared Goff is making positive progress ahead of the team's season finale against Green Bay. But the Detroit Lions quarterback doesn't expect to have clarity on his availability until the end of the week.
"Yeah, it’s very important to me," Goff said. "I want to be out there. Ultimately, it’s kind of not up to me. It’s up to where my knee is at, but I really do want to be out there. I said it earlier in the week, I’d be pretty disappointed if I wasn’t able to make it happen."
On Wednesday, Goff revealed he's dealing with a bone bruise. He suffered the injury near the end of the first half of the team's win over the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 19, leaving the game for a single snap before returning to finish the contest.
"It’s just pain management and trying to avoid any setbacks," Goff said.
Prior to suffering the injury, and even through the duration of the game against Arizona, Goff is having the best stretch since being acquired by the Lions in an offseason trade. In his past four appearances, he's completing nearly 70% of his passes for 898 yards, nine touchdown and two interceptions. He was even named the NFC's offensive player of the week for his three-touchdown outing against the Cardinals.
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The typically durable Goff, who missed just one game due to injury his first five seasons prior to missing three with different issues this year, readily admits it's been frustrating to not take advantage of the momentum he's built down the stretch.
That's added some urgency to get back on the field for the finale, to try and build on his and the offense's success heading into the offseason.
“Yeah, I think especially against the team we’re playing with Green Bay. Who knows what they’re going to do with their starters and whatnot. But, by all accounts, they’re the top team in the league right now and if we’re able to play a good game and come out with a win, it’d be pretty special to finish the season that way and that’s how we’re looking at it.”
Hoping to stick around
If Goff is unable to get cleared, backup Tim Boyle would make his third consecutive and fourth overall start on the season.
Boyle, who spent his first three seasons with the Packers, would have an opportunity to play against the coaches who developed him and the friends he made on the roster during his time with the organization.
"It would be cool," Boyle said. "I get to play against a former team of mine, but part of the responsibility of a quarterback is trying to stay even keel and not really look into that kind of stuff. It’ll be cool to see guys across from me that I’ve been friends with for three years now, three-and-a-half years, who I’ve stayed in touch with even when I came to Detroit. But, once you go play football, it’s competitive as always and you’re trying to beat the other team."
Boyle came to Detroit as a free agent after the Packers drafted and committed to developing Jordan Love as Aaron Rodgers' backup. The one-year deal with Detroit has proven to be a good match for both sides and Boyle would love to stay with the team beyond this season.
"I firmly believe in what we’re trying to do here," Boyle said. "... It’s not that I helped the Packers get there, but I’ve seen (success). I’ve kind of been on that side of the fence where I feel how it’s supposed to look. It makes me, as a competitor, definitely want to stick around because I know exactly where this team is going and I think the players who understand where it’s going are licking their chops for an opportunity next year because coach (Dan) Campbell will have us dialed in. He’ll have us ready to go and it’ll be a special run.
"I’d love to come back to Detroit," Boyle said. "I’ve built a lot of special relationships here. I love the area. The fans have been awesome to me. I don’t get paid to make those decisions, but hopefully I put myself in an enough of a position to have them consider me back because I’d love to come back.”
Amon-Ra St. Brown is 15 yards away from breaking the franchise's rookie record for receiving yards, passing Roy Williams' mark of 817 from 2004.
That was news to both Goff and Boyle, who have contributed to St. Brown's late-season surge. He's posted more than half of his yardage total, as well as the first four touchdowns of his career, in the past five games.
"It’s special, it really is," Boyle said. "As you guys have heard me rave about him, and probably every coach and every player rave about him, he deserves everything that’s coming his way, I truly believe that. He puts in the work.
"... He’s making sure that he’s doing all of the little things that he needs to do," Boyle said. "And, to be quite honest with you, it’s the first time I’ve heard about this record. Hoping obviously that he breaks it. It’ll be a special moment for him, but he’ll only grow and build off that, which is the special part."
In addition to St. Brown, Goff has enjoyed watching former Rams teammate Cooper Kupp chase the NFL's single-season receiving mark. He needs 136 yards on Sunday to break Calvin Johnson's record, set in 2012.
"What he’s been able to do has been so special," Goff said. "Our film has crossed over a lot, so we’ve been able to see a lot of it. The way he blocks and the way he does everything right, every play, and then obviously the year he’s having catching the ball is unbelievable. Always a guy I’m going to root for, always a great friend of mine, and somebody that the sky is the limit for him.”
It sets a high bar for St. Brown, who has drawn comparisons to Kupp within the Lions organization.
"I know St. Brown knows he’s got a lot of work to do and Cooper’s kind of doing something pretty special this year," Goff said. "Hopefully, one day.”
Preparing for all possibilities
It's been a strange season in an unusual career for Lions offensive tackle Matt Nelson. The converted defensive lineman went from the fourth guy on the depth chart to needing to start the first eight games of the season after a training camp injury knocked Tyrell Crosby out for the year and a badly injured finger put left tackle Taylor Decker on the shelf the first half of the campaign.
Following Decker's return, Nelson has maintained a role, averaging close to 20 snaps a week as a sixth offensive lineman as Detroit has deployed a jumbo offensive package more than any team in the NFL.
"It's just getting on the field and it's just more playing experience and more reps," Nelson said. "It's not the position that's the most natural to me, so it's kinda an ability to show my variety of skills, if you want to call it that. It's just nice to get on the field and contribute, in a way."
Detroit was so depleted at tight end last week, the 316-pound Nelson even got an opportunity to run a couple routes, including a red-zone target in the second half. Unfortunately, Nelson wasn't able to make the catch, which would have been his first since high school.
"I think I caught the most flack from my wife," Nelson said. "She's like, 'It hit your hands, you gotta catch it.' I got a lot of crap from the guys on the sideline after, so I gotta make the most of the next one if granted the opportunity."
Nelson has no idea what he'll be asked to do this week. With Decker and Penei Sewell landing on the COVID list on Monday, Nelson could potentially end up starting at left or right tackle for the season finale. And if both Decker and Sewell manage to get cleared, it will be back to the jumbo package.
"It's just kinda being able to do everything and yet focus on one thing at a time is a little bit difficult, but just diving into the playbook and knowing responsibilities and honing in on those, the fundamentals and stuff, will really help," Nelson said.
Fullback Jason Cabinda was the only player to miss Wednesday's practice. He's still dealing with a knee injury he suffered late last month against Atlanta.
Goff (knee), defensive tackle Michael Brockers (neck), guard Jonah Jackson (elbow), linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder) and tight end Brock Wright (groin) were all limited particpants.